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The Blue Letter Bible
Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Accusations Against Jesus Answered

Don Stewart :: Why Did Jesus Say My Father Is Greater than I?

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Why Did Jesus Say My Father Is Greater than I? (John 14:28)

The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ – Question 3

The Bible teaches that God the Son has been God for all eternity. Yet, Scripture teaches that God the Son became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. When He came to this earth He took upon Himself something which He did not previously have, a human form.

The New Testament also teaches that Jesus Christ lived in submission to God the Father while He was here on the earth. Because Christ humbled Himself by taking on the form of a human being, He could make this statement that John records:

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28 NIV)

Jesus had a perfect human nature as well as a divine nature. His human nature was not divine. He took an inferior position as a human being but He was not inferior in nature. The following points need to be understood.

1. Jesus Was Sent to Earth by God the Father

The submission of the Son to the Father has seemingly been from all eternity. The Bible says that the Father “sent” the Son. John, in his first epistle, wrote,

God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9 NRSV)

The Bible is consistent in teaching that the Father sent the Son. Indeed, it never teaches that the Son sent Himself.

2. He Was in Submission to the Father before He Became Human

In some unexplained way, the Son was in submission to the Father before He became a human being. Yet He was not the servant of the Father. God the Son, Jesus Christ only became a servant to the Father when He came to earth. Paul emphasized this in his letter to the Philippians. He explained it this way:

He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians 2:7, 8 NLT)

This is an important truth. God the Son, Jesus, humbled Himself and came to this earth in the role of a servant. While He was Almighty God, He willingly took upon the form of a servant. His nature, as God, did not change.

3. The Father Was Still His God after the Resurrection

After His resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus still referred to God the Father as His God. We read in John’s gospel,

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17 NIV)

In some sense, the Father was still Jesus’ God.

In the Book of Revelation, we read Jesus saying the following about the Father:

“‘The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.’” (Revelation 3:12 ESV)

This submission has nothing to do with the Son being of inferior character. It is an inferior position, not an admission of an inferior nature.

4. The Father Is the Head of Jesus Christ but Not Superior in Nature

God the Father is also said to be the “head” of Christ. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth and explained it in this manner:

But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:3 HCSB)

Yet this headship has to do only with their relative position. In other words, it has nothing to do with their nature. In their nature they are equal. Otherwise, one would have to argue that men are superior to women, by nature. However, the Bible refutes this. Paul made this clear when he wrote to the Galatians:

And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians—you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:27, 28 NLT)

Therefore, the passages referring to the Son submitting to the Father do not reflect His inferior character, only the inferior position He assumed. God the Father and God the Son are the same essence, God. However, they have distinct roles within the Godhead. This important truth must be understood.

5. Jesus Has Now Been Exalted

Jesus has now been exalted to His rightful position. Continuing his thought in his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote,

Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 NLT)

God the Son humbled Himself when He came to this earth. However, now that He has returned to His former position He has been exalted by God the Father. In this passage Scripture says that one day every knee will bow to Him and every tongue will confess that He is indeed Lord. All this will be done to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore Jesus’ statement as recorded in the Gospel of John has nothing to do with His nature compared with God the Father. It does not contradict the idea that He is God. It is merely speaking of His submissive role, not His character.

Summary – Question 3
Why Did Jesus Say My Father Is Greater than I? (John 14:28)

In the Gospel of John, there is a statement of Jesus which is recorded on the night of His betrayal. He told His disciples that “My Father is greater than I.”

The fact that Jesus Christ said this has led some to conclude that He was somehow lesser in nature than God the Father. In other words, Jesus is not the true God.

However this statement refers to Jesus’ state of humiliation that He took when He became a human being. It does not make any reference whatsoever to His basic nature. A number of important points need to be made about this issue.

To begin with, we must understand that God the Son has been God for all eternity. Yet two thousand years ago He became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. He came to earth to live among us.

Jesus Christ submitted completely to God the Father while He was here on earth. In other words He took an inferior position to the Father. Yet His submission was voluntary, not because He was of inferior nature. Indeed, God the Son remained equal in character or nature with God the Father while He was living as a human being.

Consequently, when the Son became a human being He entered into a different relationship with the Father. In His human nature, Christ always honored the Father as His God. Christ, therefore, was equal to God the Father in nature or essence but was subordinate in His position. This subordination has occurred from at least the time that the Son became a human being.

An analogy is found with the role of men and women. While the Bible stresses that men and women are equal in nature they have different roles to perform. Women are to be subordinate to men in many instances. This, however, does not imply inferiority.

In the same way, while God the Son was here upon the earth, He was submissive to God the Father in all things. However, He was still equal in nature.

The Bible says that Jesus Christ has now been exalted to His former glory as God the Son. There will come a time when every created being in the universe will acknowledge Him as Lord.

Consequently there is nothing in His statement, which is recorded in the Gospel of John, which suggests that He is lesser in character than God the Father. The Father was greater in position than the Son, but not greater in character.

What Are Some Common Biblical Objections to Jesus' Deity? ← Prior Section
In What Sense Is Jesus the Firstborn of All Creation? Next Section →
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